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Athletics Do It Again

Baseball: They blow a two-run lead in ninth, but Tejada's three-run homer extends win streak to 18.

September 02, 2002|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — Over and over again, the ball left Miguel Tejada's bat and landed in the left-field seats. Each time, the Coliseum crowd cheered wildly as Tejada screamed with joy and pumped his arms while rounding the bases.

The televisions in the Oakland clubhouse played only one program after the Athletics won their 18th consecutive game--and every time, Tejada was the star.

Tejada hit a dramatic three-run homer after the A's blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning to beat the Minnesota Twins, 7-5, Sunday and extend baseball's best winning streak in 49 years.

"Every year, I take all my tapes back home [to the Dominican Republic], and I show them to my dad," Tejada said. "This one might break. I'm going to watch it every day."

The first game-ending homer of Tejada's career extended the majors' longest winning streak since 1953, when the New York Yankees also won 18 in a row, on a day it seemed certain to end when the Twins hit three solo homers in the top of the ninth.

"This thing has a life of its own," Oakland Manager Art Howe said of the longest streak in franchise history, besting the 17-gamer by the 1931 Philadelphia A's. "I can't say I'm surprised by anything that happens. We sort of blew that game, but Miggy found a way to get it for us anyway."

Matthew LeCroy, Corey Koskie and Mike Cuddyer homered for Minnesota in an improbable rally that ruined the complete-game hopes of Mark Mulder and sent the Coliseum into stunned silence.

But in the ninth, Ramon Hernandez walked and Ray Durham singled against closer Eddie Guardado (1-3). Pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz struck out, setting the stage for Tejada's homer.

"While I was running, I looked up and I saw my dad [in a luxury box]," Tejada said. "He was jumping. It was funny to see him jumping. That's where I pointed."

At Howe's urging, Tejada stepped out of the dugout moments later for a curtain call.

"I threw a fastball low, but it caught too much of the plate, and he reached down and got it," Guardado said. "As soon as he got it in the air, I knew it was gone. What are you going to do? Tejada is an All-Star."

Tejada also hit a two-run homer.

"MVP. Period. Three letters describe that guy," said A's closer Billy Koch (7-2), who gave up Cuddyer's go-ahead homer but got the victory. "I don't think there's any other choice. If he wasn't on this team, where would we be?"

By sweeping AL Central-leading Minnesota, the A's won their ninth consecutive series.

When ace Barry Zito goes for his 20th win today against Kansas City, the A's have a shot to tie the league record of 19 consecutive victories set by the White Sox in 1906 and tied by the Yankees in 1947.

Nail-biters have been a rarity during the streak for the A's, baseball's best team in one-run games. The A's hadn't even trailed in any ninth inning during their streak until Sunday, and they've outscored their opponents, 122-48.

"You touch them, you burn yourself," said Torii Hunter, who broke up Mulder's shutout bid with a score-tying, two-run homer in the sixth. "You can't play those guys. They're so unbelievable. You can't take those guys light, even with a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth."

The Twins lost their fourth in a row, but their division title is all but assured.

When the A's visit the Metrodome next weekend, it might be another playoff preview for two teams that probably would meet in the first round if Oakland holds off the Angels and Seattle for the AL West crown.

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